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Bradgate Park taking action to protect wildlife

Deer

Bradgate Park, Leicestershire’s last medieval deer park is addressing recent concerns and publicity following incidents with dogs worrying the deer herds and other wildlife the site supports, alongside the increasing issues of dog fouling and littering of “poo bags”.

Despite extensive press and social media coverage in recent months about impacts and concerns incidents have continued to escalate.

Incidents have included parents filming children chasing the deer, dogs chasing the deer, fights between dogs, dogs bothering people, mountain bikers riding off permitted paths, as well as dogs killing wild birds. In addition dog poo bags have been left hanging in trees and vandalism recently occurred over night in areas where the Trust’s rangers have been improving habitats and facilities.
Peter Tyldesley, Director of the Bradgate Park Trust said, “The Trust will be introducing a seasonal dogs on lead restriction zone in the busiest areas of the Park. Dogs will still be allowed off lead (if under effective control) in around three quarters of the site.”

The restriction will come into force from 1st June.
“The Trust is now working with Charnwood Borough Council and other agencies with regard to updating our existing bylaws into a Public Spaces Protection Order.”

“Currently the bylaws cover all aspects of behaviour that is causing us and our visitors concern, with the potential of a £200 fine on conviction. Despite requests to visitors to work with us and keep pets under control, bike riders to adhere to designated paths and all visitors and pets to not disturb wildlife, increasing issues are meaning we are now having to look at new restrictions and means of enforcement. This is alongside the addition of new signage, at a significant cost to the Trust.”

A consultation exercise will be launched in coming weeks with regard to introducing a Public Spaces Protection Order and the Trust will continue to work with the appropriate authorities to take this forward. This would see regulations updated with potential on the spot fines being enforced.

Bradgate’s parkland is exceptional with internationally important, geology, archaeological heritage, listed buildings, monuments and ruins, protected wildlife-rich habitats and an outstanding natural landscape. Much of the park is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with a management plan approved by Natural England that is seeing habitat restoration and areas maintained to protect and conserve the wildlife and heritage features. Bradgate Park is also home to a mixed herd of red and fallow deer. These can be enjoyed by visitors in their natural habitat all year round. The site is maintained for public access and is free to visit (although car parking charges apply).

Charles Bennion, Chairman of the Trustees and great-grandson of the Park’s original benefactor said, “Bradgate Park is home to a 400-strong wild deer herd who roam the 800 acres of parkland year-round. They are descendants of those known by the Earls of Stamford and visiting Kings and Queens. Currently the charity established by my great-grandfather has used a ‘light touch’ policy with regard to enforcing the bylaws associated with the site, but the Trust has a duty to protect the deer and the landscape and to ensure the site is maintained for the people of Leicestershire and further afield to visit. We are proud of the work the Trust does in ever-challenging circumstances, but recent changes in visitor behaviour have caused us concern and required a review to address more contemporary issues.”

Matt Smith, Head Ranger said, “The Bradgate Park Trust believes that everyone should be able to enjoy this special place. Dog walkers are frequent visitors to the site and we welcome them. We do ask that dogs are kept under effective control so as not to interfere with other users or the deer. ‘Effective control’ means the dog is kept in sight at all times, the owner is aware of what it’s doing, and is confident it will return promptly on command even if it surprises a deer which then runs away. If the owner is not sure that it will do this, the dog should be kept on a lead. If an area is designated for dogs on a lead only at busy times of the year, or crucial periods for deer welfare, we will be enforcing this under the current byelaws and subsequent processes the Trust may adopt.”

For more information contact the Trust at development@bradgatepark.org.